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Controlling Managers ‘Becoming’: The Practices of Identity Regulation

  • Pezé, Stéphan
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    In the last decades, identity has become an increasing target and outcome of organizational control, notably through processes of identity regulation (Alvesson and Willmott, 2002). Several studies provide strong evidence of the relevance of the organizational practices of identity regulation identified by Alvesson and Willmott. However, we currently miss an understanding of ‘how’ these organizational practices are exercised by organizational members. This paper aims at advancing the identity regulation process understandings by providing evidence of specific practices through which organizational identity regulation practices are exercised. Through a qualitative longitudinal study of a managerial training, we found that identity regulation works through (1) practices of linguistic and conceptual resources providing and (2) practices of enactment of these resources. We have also identified ‘side’ practices which sustain and reassure both the participants’ engagement into the training and the discourse enactment. Despite this appearance of effectiveness, parasitic factors such as autonomous discourses produced by participants as well as individual previous identity and willingness to ‘play the game’ undermine the power of identity regulation which remains an uncertain process. Our contributions to the literature are threefold: we document various micro-practices through which identity regulation discourse is performed and linked to organizational members’ identity; we show that these identity regulation practices are sustained by ‘side’ practices; we argue that identity work understanding as an autonomous and individual process needs to be balanced because it can also be a deliberate target of identity regulation. This opens new paths for studies of identity construction processes inside organizations.

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    Paper provided by Paris Dauphine University in its series Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine with number 123456789/10084.

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    Date of creation: Jul 2012
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    Handle: RePEc:dau:papers:123456789/10084
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    1. Whittington, Richard, 2011. "The practice turn in organization research: Towards a disciplined transdisciplinarity," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 183-186, April.
    2. Quattrone, Paolo, 2009. "Books to be practiced: Memory, the power of the visual, and the success of accounting," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 85-118, January.
    3. Mats Alvesson, 2002. "Identity Regulation as Organizational Control: Producing the Appropriate Individual," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 39(5), pages 619-644, 07.
    4. Patrizia Zanoni & Maddy Janssens, 2007. "Minority Employees Engaging with (Diversity) Management: An Analysis of Control, Agency, and Micro-Emancipation," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(8), pages 1371-1397, December.
    5. Gill Musson & Joanne Duberley, 2007. "Change, Change or Be Exchanged: The Discourse of Participation and the Manufacture of Identity," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(1), pages 143-164, 01.
    6. Andrew D. Brown, 2006. "A Narrative Approach to Collective Identities," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(4), pages 731-753, 06.
    7. Ahrens, Thomas & Chapman, Christopher S., 2007. "Management accounting as practice," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 32(1-2), pages 1-27.
    8. Gendron, Yves & Spira, Laura F., 2010. "Identity narratives under threat: A study of former members of Arthur Andersen," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 275-300, April.
    9. Empson, Laura, 2004. "Organizational identity change: managerial regulation and member identification in an accounting firm acquisition," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 29(8), pages 759-781, November.
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